On February 25, the first Conversatorio Virtual on community tourism was organized by the Sanctuary of San Pedro Claver in Cartagena (Colombia). Participants included Esther Binkhorst, Jorge Peralta and Jordi Ficapal, professors of the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management Sant Ignasi (HTSI).
This event was the result of a collaboration between HTSI and the Sanctuary to organize a study trip to Colombia for students of the Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism (unfortunately, this year’s edition was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
“Turismo comunitario: una alternativa socioeducativa” (Community tourism: a socio-educational alternative) was the title chosen to show the people of Cartagena de Indias how tourism can be a positive opportunity for community development and an alternative to mass tourism.
“Tourism has a big impact, and we want experiences that benefit our community and contribute to profound conversations on its effects”, began Gloria Cardona and Linda Zurek of the Sanctuary of San Pedro Claver.
Next, HTSI professor and director of education and innovation Jordi Ficapal presented a conceptual framework for sustainable and responsible tourism.
There is one approach to tourism used by public organizations, governments, and those responsible for planning land use. They want tourism to follow a clear design based on prior research. However, there is also a more business-based approach where things are launched quickly and then adjusted to meet any issues that arise.
“Tourism always has an impact. It’s not a pollution-free industry. Public-private cooperation is essential to effectively design the impact of tourism on the city, society and culture. Otherwise, there will be negative effects”, Ficapal stated.
Ficapal also reviewed the advantages and disadvantages of tourism: “tourism is bipolar. We need to be alert and work to preserve the popularity of the destination, the welfare of residents, the safety of tourists and environmental sustainability.”
Co-creation as a tool for community tourism
Next, professor Esther Binkhorst explained the value chain involved when designing experiences, placing a special emphasis on the concepts of authenticity and co-creation.
“We need to generate positive emotional impressions and think about all the agents involved: individuals, entities and organizations. Tourism has changed, and we need co-creation to generate added value in tourism experiences”, Binkhorst told those present.
According to Binkhorst, co-creation means designing with others, not for others. In other words, locals must be involved to ensure inclusive, regenerative tourism: “locals need to be able to ask themselves what their role is and what image they should present to others. Considering all the pieces when designing tourism is a strategy that will help us create more holistic experiences.”
Binkhorst also shared the results of the first edition of the online training course “Community Based Eco-Tourism”, commissioned by the Jesuit Worldwide Learning organization. This course on eco-tourism included 21 Thai students. Not only did it emphasize cultural diversity, but it also emphasized the value of sustainability and responsibility when developing communities.
The social experience of HTSI students in Colombia, an example of community tourism
To conclude the lectures, professor Jorge Peralta noted the differences between community tourism, eco-tourism and rural tourism. He also emphasized the benefits of community tourism using concepts shared by HTSI and the Sanctuary of San Pedro Claver:
- Share biological and cultural diversity with the traveller. A shared home and hospitality.
- Share responsibility in community management. Fraternity.
- Share benefits with the community as a whole. The common good.
“Community tourism is tourism on a human scale. It’s one-on-one tourism where travellers are preferred over tourists. In the end, the common goal is to share and revitalize culture while protecting the land and the welfare of the local community.”
To show the benefits of community tourism, Peralta described some of the most well-known practical improvements and talked about the study trip to Colombia for students of tourism: “the journey is a transformational experience, a learning-service experience. We visit the seat of Human Rights, we learn about the history of the Sanctuary, and we take part in its missions in underprivileged areas. It allows us to reflect on the need for co-creation.”
Finally, lecturers answered questions from the audience on best practice and initiatives that could be applied in Cartagena de Índias.
You can watch the event here:
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